He clinks when he walks, but he wears no spurs. His unshorn beard and curls, his dark dress mark him as a man of God, but he wears a gun, gilded with Solomonic talismans.
He is called The Rider, but he has no horse.
September 1st marks the release of the second book in my Merkabah Rider series, The Mensch With No Name.
To bring you up to speed, gentle readers, Merkabah Rider is my weird western series from the good folks at Damnation Books, which began last year with the publication of Tales of a High Planes Drifter. The concept for the series was born in my love of 1930’s pulps, especially hair-raising stories by Robert E. Howard like Old Garfield’s Heart, and The Horror From The Mound. Mash that up with spaghetti westerns (The Great Silence and For A Few Dollars More in particular – Scarchili, the Mexican bandit antagonist of High Planes Drifter was entirely based on the great Gian Maria Volante and was named for Claudio Scarchilli a prominent spaghetti player) and my love of obscure mythology and folklore (in this case Jewish), and that’s Merkabah Rider. I’m very thankful to Damnation for letting me tell the stories the way I envisioned them, which is in a series of novella ‘episodes’ like the serialized novellas of the classic Weird Tales.
The main character, a Hasidic Jewish gunslinger known only as The Rider, is one of a secret order of mystics called the Sons of the Essenes, who are descended from a monastic Hebrew sect from around the time of Christ with traditions dating back to King Solomon. Capable of extraplanar travel, the merkabah riders enter into an ecstatic state and ascend from their physical forms into the higher heavens, their purpose, to explore the upper reaches of heaven and ultimately stand within the presence of the Divine Creator.
The Rider (who as part of his training has taken on a title for a name to confound antagonistic spiritual forces) was one of the most accomplished merkabah of his age, but he experienced a crisis of faith at the seventh heaven and was cast back into his body by the titanic angel Metatron. His contemporaries blamed his failure on his employment of non-Jewish talismans and techniques, a forbidden teaching fostered by his instructor, a rebbe called Adon. Perceiving a mustering of demonic and angelic forces in the spirit world and reading the signs of the impending Civil War, the Rider left his sect to fight in the Union cause, reasoning he was aiding the cause of heaven on earth.
Fortuitously, his absence from the Essenes saved his life, when Adon turned on his brothers and erased the American enclave, murdering the Sons of the Essenes and taking off for parts unknown.
Now, the Rider, blamed by association for the murder of his teachers and fellow students, hunts for Adon across the demon-haunted American Southwest.
In the previous outing, the Rider contended with a cult of child-sacrificing Molech worshipers (The Blood Libel), a demonically possessed gunman (Hell’s Hired Gun), a gang of bandits who enslaved an entire town with the aid of a powerful ju ju man (The Dust Devils), and finally a brothel of antedilluvian succubi led by the Demon Queen Lilith (The Nightjar Women).
Along the way, the Rider learned of The Hour of Incursion, an infernal plot only hinted at, but in this volume, spelled out by none other than Lucifer himself.
Prior to descending into hell to press the Adversary himself for information (The Pandaemonium Ride), the Rider trades bullets with a gang of half-demons (called sheddim) looking to avenge the Rider’s slight against their immortal mother, Lilith (The Infernal Napoleon). Next up his mystically engraved, gilded Volcanic pistol is stolen during a train robbery and his seatmate, none other than John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday offers to help him retrieve it, inadverdantly leading to a confrontation with a weird invisible creature (The Damned Dingus) in the mountains above Las Vegas, New Mexico. Crossing the desert with his faithful onnager, he is waylaid by a band of Apache Indians whose people are being taken in the night. He agrees to help them, and comes face to face with the ageless menace behind The Hour of Incursion (The Outlaw Gods).
Mensch With No Name is packed with easter eggs for discerning fans of genre fiction. I won’t say what or where, but there are references to Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard’s grim Puritan adventurer, The Lord of The Rings, even Ghostbusters.
Yep, that’s right, Ghostbusters.
I’m also a western history fanatic. I’ve long wanted to set a story in Las Vegas, New Mexico, which at its peak, was a place where Billy The Kid and Jesse James sat down to a meal together, Doc Holliday practiced dentistry for the last time, and lesser known but equally colorful characters like Dave Rudabaugh, Mysterious Dave Mather, and Hoodoo Brown all plied their infamous trade with lead.
Did I mention the Devil’s in it too?
You can pick up The Mensch With No Name right now in ebook formats at Damnation Books (here – http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615721894)
or in Kindle on Amazon.
The print edition will be coming your way later this month.